Larry Denton, a longtime advocate for historic preservation at Hanford, died Friday. He was 87.
Denton was one of a dwindling number of former Hanford employees who worked on the site during World War II.
He played a part in preserving the B Reactor, the nation's first production-scale nuclear reactor, which produced the plutonium for the world's first atomic explosion and for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
More recently, he advocated for making the B Reactor part of a proposed Manhattan Project Historical Park.
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Denton was born in Priest River, Idaho, and lived in the Tri-Cities for 65 years.
He was hitchhiking to Spokane from Priest River in 1941, when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor, Denton told the Herald last year.
He rushed back to his hometown to enlist, but was rejected for medical reasons.
After Hanford was picked as the site for plutonium production, Denton was one of tens of thousands of workers who came to the Washington desert to usher in the atomic age.
Denton started as a shipping clerk, but eventually worked at the reactors, including the B Reactor. And he later helped preserve that reactor for posterity.
"He was one of the leading advocates for saving the B Reactor so it wouldn't get cocooned," said Michele Gerber, a Hanford historian who met Denton 20 years ago.
Gerber often called upon him to come talk to reporters or luminaries.
He always jumped at the chance to help the historian, she said.
"He was just kind and helpful," Gerber said.
Denton was featured in an episode of the 2007 History Channel series about Hanford called The Lost World.
His eyesight was so poor in his later years that he couldn't drive, Gerber said. But when it came to impressing upon others the importance of preserving the history of Hanford, Denton always found a way to get himself out on the site, Gerber said.
"He was a great, great man," she said.